Sheffield United fans will have to pay some eye-watering prices at Old Trafford next month, as they travel to face Manchester United in the FA Cup third round. Pete Wells from Tyneside Blades says such prices detracts from the magic of the cup...
The magic of the FA Cup is something that sticks in the heart, the skin and the blood of every football club and fan. It doesn't respect which league you play in, how many millions your star striker cost or the size of your stands and stadium, it's the FA Cup and your club maybe, just maybe could win it.
The excitement linked with the third round draw and getting a 'big club' used to be like a shot of adrenalin no matter what age you are. Fans sat eagerly on the edge of their sofas and armchairs waiting for your clubs number to be pulled out, your fingers crossed for one of the big boys or maybe even your rival club.
The sobering thought for fans of the inappropriately called 'smaller clubs' is the ticket price that will go with that trip to that big clubs stadium.
Sheffield United, the original United may I add, is by no means a small club and when they were drawn against Manchester United, exaltations could be heard far and wide by Blades fans.
Within the hour and with excitement still buoyant of talk of giving the 'wrong side of the Pennines' a good game, many a frugal Yorkshireman and woman began to ask "and how much will the tickets cost?"
Sadly, this is where the magic of the FA Cup starts to erode and where greed and gluttony is visible for all to see.
It's then publicised that it will be shown as a live game on TV before the Old Trafford third round ticket prices come out ranging from £45-£55. A high price for fans to pay considering the income of TV money to the clubs and the potential of those armchair fans staying right there.
Putting the ticket price in to context, you could go the last semi-final from just £33 and the final from £50 in 2015.
Sheffield United negotiate to try and reduce the ticket prices however the home club has the overall and final say. So where does that leave the fans?
Yes, of course nearly every fan will want to go. Will many children and partners may find one less present under the Christmas tree? Yes. Those fans on tighter budgets must look to fund the trip in January, a 5 week month notorious for a long break since that December wage went in should they be in employment.
For us Blades fans in the North East, £122 is the cost of travel and a match ticket alone along with a midnight return to the Toon.
Adding the match day Holy Trinity of the three P's - a Pint, Pie & a Programme you're spending will be getting close to a week in Butlins before just this one day trip is over.
We accept travel costs as exiled fans because we choose where we live many years on from the choice every fan makes as a child as to which club they will love for the rest of their life. Should we also accept extortionate ticket prices?
Does the FA Cup still have that magic? Yes, it thankfully does.
Does the FA Cup and football increasingly have that slightly sour taste as fans see themselves treated more and more just as ever lasting customers? Yes, it sadly does.